I’ve spent a lot of this year thinking about this topic. For most of my life I’ve struggled with relationships as I strive to be liked by all, confused when traces of the real me clash with those I want to fit in with, and then shattered when relationships break, blaming myself for not being more this or that. For the longest time I confused fitting in with belonging. And I lacked a lot of those things that in my mind helped people to belong – roots, years of being in the same place and knowing each other, families that grew up together and kids that went to school together. Human beings thrive in communities. We yearn for collective experiences, to be a part of something bigger – we want to belong to more than ourselves. This innate desire has unfortunately resulted in our trying harder to fit in than discover where we truly belong. Because belonging requires us to know and unapologetically be who we are, we spend a lot less of our lives getting to know ourselves and a lot more time aimlessly trying to fit, changing who we truly are for the ability to be a part of something else. We spend most of our youth struggling with our self-identity, desperately wanting to be popular and have people like us, adapting to what is necessary in order for us to fit in. Moving from country to country as we followed my dad’s job, I reinvented my identity based on my environment with each and every move. I felt like a chameleon, an actor. I learned how to adapt to my surroundings, but I never really felt like I belonged. In trying to be like everyone else, I kept losing sight of myself. I think this is why I became dependent on, and even territorial over, my relationships. Those relationships validated my worth it seemed – they represented my idea of belonging. The truth was, and continues to be, that until I was able to know myself and accept myself as I was, I would never find relationships that would last, or situations where I truly felt a sense of belonging. You will notice that with the more you try to fit in, the less you will manage to belong as traces of the real you shed light on being in the wrong place, with the wrong company, trying to be someone you are not. Real belonging exists within ourselves, with that self-awareness and acceptance of who we are. In that knowing and belief in ourselves, belonging stops being something we aspire towards and becomes instead something that simply is. You no longer need external validation, you will attract like-minded people to you and find validation in the comfort of just being yourself. If we could place the importance of being true to ourselves over the need to change who we are in order to fit in, imagine the difference it would make on our youth, or even in our life now. To not have the pressure to be a certain way or act a certain way because society says it’s so, but to live from the heart – to have the security and comfort of it being ok to be ourselves. And the truth is: it is ok. It is scary, and it takes courage to show up and be seen as we are, but it’s fear that keeps us wanting to fit in; it’s freedom that awaits us with belonging. So let’s stop trying to fit and learn to belong instead. Let’s teach this to our children so that they might have an earlier start at living harmonious lives. Let’s stop spending unnecessary time and energy changing who we are for the sake of others. Let who we show to the world be who we truly are so that we can finally enjoy the beauty of real belonging. Who’s with me?